Friday, June 17, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 4: Prompts.

So far in this series, I've discussed supplies, moving past the blank page, reasons why people keep a journal and getting started with backgrounds. For today's post, I'll share some prompts to get your creative juices flowing and aid in giving your page personal meaning. Is it necessary for a page to have personal meaning? Certainly not. I've created plenty of pages just because I felt like playing with my supplies, or wanted to experiment with a new technique, or just wanted to be creative. Remember, there are no rules! While keeping that in mind, it's also very satisfying to lend a personal aspect to your journal. After all, it's your journal, it's your place to express your thoughts, feelings and ideas, without fear of judgement or concern of whether what you create is "good enough". Let it reflect who you are. Be yourself! Even if you don't want to "spill your guts", these prompts can hopefully give you a place to start on days when you're at a loss of what to journal about. All combined, I hope the posts so far will make you feel more at ease in getting started, or continuing on, for those who've already jumped in.

Art Journal Prompts:
  • A memory from childhood.
  • Your favorite place.
  • Favorite quotes.
  • The previous night's dream.
  • A memorable trip or vacation.
  • The seasons.
  • What 3:00 am feels like.
  • Favorite songs, and what they mean to you.
  • Favorite color(s).
  • Favorite book(s).
  • What makes you sad.
  • What makes you happy.
  • What gives you strength.
  • What scares you.
  • Daydreams.
  • A special moment from your day.
  • An important person in your life.
  • What "home" means to you.
  • The greatest gift you've ever been given.
Complete these sentences:
  • I am...
  • I want...
  • I miss...
  • I wish...
  • I wonder...
  • I will...
  • I have...
  • I can...
  • I enjoy...
  • I love...
  • I remember...
  • I am proud of myself for...
  • I dream of someday...
  • I am happiest when...
  • I am grateful for...
A journal page can revolve around a list:
  • Places you'd like to travel to.
  • Facts about you.
  • Good friends and why they're special to you.
  • Jobs you've had.
  • Pets you've loved.
  • Favorite foods.
  • What you love about your life.
  • What you'd like to change.
  • Favorite authors.
  • Favorite movies.
  • Goals for the future.
Be creative. You can write a response, or draw, paint, can come at it literally, or go abstract. It's all up to you.

Following my last post, reader Leanne asked, "What do you put in your art journal? Do you write about your day, draw, or just decorate pages?" My answer is all of the above, plus more! My journal is my place to write about the day's or life's events, my diary, my playground, a way to release pent up emotions, a free art space... The list goes on. I write, draw, paint, collage, attach photos and ephemera... I work in different ways, some days just doing a background, other days adding to a previous page or working an entire page in one sitting. Use your own journal in a way that feels natural to you. The key is to express yourself without holding back. No one ever has to see your journal if you so choose. While you may decide to share it with others, your art journal should be for you first.

To give you some concrete examples, I'll take a couple of the prompts and share how I might go about journaling them.

Your favorite place:

I have lots of favorite places, some very specific, like my studio, and some broader, like the American southwest. For this example, I'll go with San Fransisco.

Some things I might include on a page about San Francisco are sketches of the Golden Gate Bridge, photos I took during my time there, postcards, city maps, chopstick wrappers from a meal in a Chinatown restaurant or clippings from local newspapers. I might journal about my favorite ocean side spot in the city, or the concert I saw in Golden Gate Park, or how much I love when the fog rolls in, or how it feels to be in the city at night. Or I may forgo all of this and just paint a picture of the ocean.

The seasons:

For this prompt, I could write about my favorite season, which is autumn, and paint some leaves or make leaf prints, or even attach actual leaves to the pages. Or I could journal about what season it is currently. If it's summer, I could pick flowers and press them between the pages of a heavy book, then after a few days, when they're dry and have flattened out, I could put them on a page using clear tape to protect them. I could sketch the flowers, the trees, or use my own photos. I could write about favorite summertime activities or memories, or summer vacations as a child, or include quotes about summer, though knowing me, I would most likely lament about the crisp autumn air instead, as I've never been fond of the heat.

I'll close this installment by sharing a couple of my pages and how they came to be.

On the above page, I started with my background, not knowing what direction to go in. I added an image transfer, painted, inked, stamped. I was reading The Invisibles at the time, so I added a powerful passage that had stuck with me. This page initially had no direction at all, other than the need to create, and ended up having meaning for me and feels complete.

EDIT: Somehow, I must have deleted my explanation of how the above page came into being...

So, for this page, I started with a background using watercolors and acrylic paint. I added image transfers, including a photo of myself from years ago. On the left side, I glued down a piece of paper my son wrote on while we played board games one night. I added a favorite quote from Annie Dillard, and a little photo I took at a local park.

More often than not, I don't start my pages with any direction in mind; I find direction as I work. Other times I know exactly what I want to do and do it. But for those times when my mind feels empty and I have no inspiration, looking to a prompt can get me moving in the right direction, that direction being following the creative path where it leads.


  1. Thank you for listing some prompts to help start off, and for explaining how you went about making a few pages. Beautiful work, by the way.

  2. You're very welcome, and thanks for the compliment, Jen!

  3. Hi:
    I'm also featured in Seth Apter's Pulse and it's so cool to visit the many talented artists he has assembled. Love your work and I wonder, what method do you use to transfer images to journal pages?
    Take care,

  4. Thank you for stopping by, Patti! As far as image transfers, I bounce around between a few methods, but my favorites are acrylic medium transfers - where you adhere image-side down to the page and when the mediumis dry wet the paper and rub the paper leaving the ink behind - and even easier, using Chartpak blender markers. I may cover image transfer methods in a future art journaling post.

  5. Thanks so much for this. I am just getting interested in art journaling... I have been an avid traditional journal keeper for years and years, and am feeling a little bit paralyzed with all the art journaling choices. Time to let go and have fun!

  6. You're very welcome! Thanks for reading! After the chaos of my life settles down some (hahaha! wonder when that will be?), I plan to start this series up again.